America is falling out of love with traditional literary practice when we have everything to lose. The latest Pew Research Center study on the matter reports that only 72% of American adults have read at least one book in the last year, a 7% decline since 2011. But what about our infants? Our toddlers? Our school aged youth? With adult reading wavering, we cannot ignore the brain-building opportunity that reading aloud to our children affords. For brighter generations, we must continue to read aloud.
Regardless of income, background, career paths, and community infrastructure, families should be encouraged to pass down the tradition of reading aloud daily to our next generation of leaders. This simple practice empowers young minds with increasing language and process development, social-emotional bonding, word recognition and information sharing. Researchers posture that reading aloud to children supports coping skills and positive social engagement. These are life-skills that cannot be under-estimated in their connection to an individual's life long path to success.
The Read Aloud National Campaign reported findings from the 2016 national survey, How America Reads Aloud to its Children, that 60% of caretaker respondents say that reading aloud at home has an extremely positive impact on early brain development, but do not practice reading aloud on a daily basis. The campaign encourages caretakers to find at least 15 minutes each day (although not necessarily at bed time) to read aloud to their children, encouraging opportunities during bath time or meal time. This campaign is particularly focused on connecting with millennial parents, of whom only about half plan to read to their children daily, despite the recommendation of 15 minutes per day of reading aloud to children from birth onward. This 2016 report concedes that all survey respondents agree that reading aloud is important, however, across all income levels, parents state that there are many barriers impeding this daily activity.
This month, during National Reading Month, Children’s Friend and Family Services ran a community-based book drive to support the 3,000 children and families we serve. By collaborating with local libraries, friends of our agency, and our own workforce, over 700 books have been collected in a little over two weeks. Lawrence Public Library alone donated 7 boxes of books! As we work to honor our agency’s legacy and mission, “to improve the lives of children and promote strong families” we recognize that literacy, starting with reading aloud traditions for each of our families, is just one more viable piece of our community-based care. Research has shown that children who have limited or no access to books before going to school are severely disadvantaged and struggle to reach their full academic and social emotional potential. It is a privilege to support the reading aloud traditions in so many homes across the communities of Greater Lynn, Greater Lawrence, Greater Salem, and Cape Ann. Here’s to more story times, cuddling with increased familial bonds, and highly resilient young minds!
If you are interested in donating or spreading the work of our book drive for gentle used children and young adult books, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
photo credit: https://inmygoodbooks.wordpress.com/2013/12/